Fear of Man

Scripture Notes Header

Fear of man is a snare.  (Proverbs 29:25)

The Gospel frees us from the insecurity of needing other people’s opinions to validate our worth.  It frees us, therefore, from needing to manipulate the perceptions and impressions of everyone around us.

This means that when we receive the truth of the Gospel and embrace who God says we are in Christ, we no longer have to use people for their accolades.

Instead, we can love them authentically and serve them for their benefit… rather than using them for ours.

–Pastor Phillip

Anniversaries and Expectations [An Encouraging Word]

Two years ago today, my wife and I said “I do,” and we’re not doing a thing to celebrate.

Why not?  First, we both work today, and second, we’re watching our finances, staying on-budget and paying off debt (you know, those boring details of married life that don’t get special days or cards or celebrations.)

For us, this is the best anniversary gift we can give each other, because by exercising restraint for the short term, we’re actually investing in our relationship for the long term…but that’s a topic for another day.

Third, because of our time and budget, we actually celebrated yesterday by driving around Southwest Florida and enjoying some of the simple (and inexpensive) pleasures we have in our own backyard.  We didn’t spend lots of money, but we did spend the whole day together, and that’s what made it special.

Yet, there’s another reason our modest anniversary plans haven’t been a bad thing for my wife and me, and it’s far deeper than schedules and spending.

I talk to people all the time that are disappointed the bright surface on their relationships faded, because they got together for the shine instead of the substance underneath.  It seems like many folks jump in to commitments expecting non-stop stellar moments, and then are dismayed to find it’s mostly just steady going.

For us, two whole years in (epic, I know), I’ve noticed something about our relationship that’s different from the ones I see in movies or the ones divorce lawyers see in their offices.  Through wise counsel, diligent work and the grace of God, we found a truth that makes sacrifices feel easier, or at least a lot more doable than they might be otherwise.

Here’s what we discovered: If you go in looking for the highlight reel, you’ll get out mostly disappointment, but if you expect the heavy lifting, then even little breaks will be a big delight.

You see, the fact that we didn’t get a whole weekend away in some exotic locale wasn’t a big deal, because that’s not why we got into this in the first place.  We committed to build a life, not just take a ride.  We devoted ourselves to seek the greatest good for each other, not just the most fun for ourselves.

For us, it’s not the mountaintops that bring us the most joy, but the moments in between, and that makes all the difference.

So, I don’t know what expectations you have for your current situation, but can I encourage you to try something?

Stop wishing for a never-ending string of weekends and welcome the rough, raw beauty of the daily grind.  When you learn to embrace it, you’ll find the little blessings that come your way won’t feel as much like drops of water in a mostly empty bucket; they’ll feel like diamonds in the dirt, far more precious and worth the wait.

–Pastor Phillip

 

God chose you to belong to His people

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  (1 Peter 2:9-10)

You were created for belonging.  In the very beginning, God declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) and He meant it.

Yet, sin separates us not just from God, but also from one another.  Sin drives us deeper into the cave of lonely individualism, and tells us we can be just fine on our own.  Sin tells us we don’t need anyone else, that we alone have what it takes to live a full and meaningful life and have no need of other people.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

God is a relational God, and He created us as relational people.  Although sin separates, in Christ, God desires to bring together a people who have fellowship not only with Him, but also with each other.

Don’t believe the lie that you can experience full life with just you and Jesus. Jesus wants you to be a part of His body, His family, His people the church.  This is God’s will for you, not just to believe, but to belong.

You don’t have to be alone, so be blessed as you take action on this truth.

God chose you to belong to His people.

–Pastor Phillip

What kind of person…really? (Luke 6:45)

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart.  An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.  (Luke 6:45)

“I know he’s done some terrible things, but he’s really just misunderstood.”

“Yeah, he cusses and yells and lies sometimes, but he’s really a good person.”

“Okay, so he cheated once and got violent a couple of times, but I know he’s got a good heart.”

Do you know what I think Jesus would say to all of that?

“That’s just silly.”

–Pastor Phillip

Two Perspectives on Pull-ups in the Pool [An Encouraging Word]

The clock was ticking, and we weren’t getting anything done.

My son Bradley loves the pool, and this particular morning I had agreed to join him in “training” together, practicing laps to help us both prepare for the triathlon he wants to do with me in the fall.

Pull-ups in the PoolThere, in tepid waters of our little neighborhood pool, I started out by explaining the difference between “lengths” and “laps,” and we started swimming… but not for long.

Instead of doing significant training, we explored new ways to splash each other, played make-believe for a little while, and yes, got in a bit of exercise, though not as much as I would have liked.

Then, as our alotted time was almost up (I had to get to work), Bradley decided he wanted to get a little more exercise, not by swimming, but by doing pull-ups… in the water on the side of the pool.

Pull-ups in the pool.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to say. I’d already been a little annoyed at having done very little actual training, and while I’m all about encouraging physical fitness in creative ways, I was pretty sure doing pull-ups in the pool wasn’t actually doing anything!

Or was it?

Maybe the greater purpose of that morning before work wasn’t helping my son strengthen his body, but helping the two of us strengthen our relationship. Maybe the real value in those moments wasn’t found in the exercise, but simply the experience of us being together and him feeling like his ideas had value and worth.

Maybe I needed to adjust my priorities.

Another thought occurred to me in the water that morning. This one not about relationships, but effectiveness.

I wondered, what are the “pull-ups in the pool” that I’m doing right now in other areas of my life? What activities am I doing that keep me preoccupied, but don’t produce much progress? What things are giving me a busy schedule, but aren’t helping me build success?

Maybe I need to adjust my work habits.

How about you?

You see, when our relationships become all about productivity and progress, we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We need to remember that “pull-ups in the pool” are okay, because what matters most isn’t accomplishing goals, but cultivating hearts.

On the other side of the equation, when our work becomes more about routine than results, we’re out of balance there, too. We need to remember that “pull-ups in the pool” must be avoided at all costs, because life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t really make a difference.

Wherever you are right now, relationally or professionally, here’s my encouragement to you today.

Ask God for the clarity to evaluate your priorities and activities, and the courage to make the changes that lead to the result He wants for you: a flourishing life.

–Pastor Phillip

Running Again

Running Again

(Or, “How the Worst Itch Ever Reminded me of the Best Fix of All”)

The itch was so bad I could barely stand it.

There I was, surrounded by the beauty of a fresh sunrise, sidewalk-jogging past a serene waterway and a meticulously trimmed golf course, and all I could think of was the fire under my skin.

It was my first time running in a while, and based on past experience, I knew exactly what this was: my blood vessels overheating because they simply weren’t used to that kind of throughput. The sensory result? Itch, itch, itch, itch, itch.

What made it worse was the fact that I knew a surefire solution that could stop the discomfort. I knew there was one simple action I could take that would completely stop the agony and return me to sanity: quit.

If I just stopped running, gave up on the whole thing and returned to a leisurely pace, the itching in my legs would go away.

Have you ever been there? Maybe not with jogging or physical activity, but have you ever been in a spot where you were in so much discomfort, so much pain even, that it seemed like quitting was your only option to make it go away?

The whole thing reminds me of a passage from a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in the city of Galatia. He knew that following Jesus in their day –as in ours– definitely brought with it an element of discomfort. Yet, this seasoned saint also knew that when it comes to our walk with Christ, the prize is always worth the pain. Look at what he reminded them…

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

There it is, a simple reminder with staggeringly powerful implications: don’t give up.

When the discomfort threatens to derail you, don’t give up.

When the struggle feels like it will sink you, don’t give up.

When the pain eclipses your perspective, forget about what you feel, and simply remember to DO this: Don’t. Give. Up.

It may seem like quitting is the only option to deal with the pain, but that would mean ditching the prize. It may feel like stopping is the only way to survive, but failing to finish would mean relinquishing the reward.

You see, in that itch-filled moment on the jogging trail, I knew that quitting might fix the discomfort, but I would have surrendered the satisfaction of a job well done. I also knew that if I kept at it, not only would the itch eventually fade away, but in its place would be the power of better blood flow and the pride of an accomplishment, a much better “fix” indeed.

So, what did I do that day? I kept going until I hit my goal.

Where do YOU need to keep going today?

Maybe you have a relationship that’s seen better days, but don’t give up.

Maybe there’s a workplace conflict you can’t seem to resolve, but don’t give up.

Maybe it’s a habit or sin or addiction that feels impossible to break, but whatever it is: Don’t. Give. Up!

If you’ll keep on pressing forward, I can’t promise your circumstance will improve right away, but I can guarantee you’ll receive a breakthrough in the one place that matters most…

Your heart.

–Pastor Phillip

God reveals His blessings through community

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Philemon

GOD REVEALS HIS BLESSINGS THROUGH COMMUNITY

And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.  (Philemon 1:6)

When we hear the phrase, “sharing your faith,” we likely think about evangelism.  Certainly we should share our faith with those who don’t have it, in hopes that they might believe.  Yet, there is another kind of sharing that is vitally important, too.

We must share our faith with other believers, not in the sense of only telling them about our experience, but listening to theirs, too.

The greek word used here for sharing is “koinonia,” a word we often translate in english as “fellowship.” It’s a picture of the Christian life as a family potluck dinner.

So, here’s a question.  Can you survive by only eating what you cooked up yourself?  Sure, but you’ll miss the fulness and beauty of enjoying what other people bring to the table.

God’s plan for your life in Christ was never about you and Him in isolation together.  He has wired your heart in such a way that the only way you will receive the fulness of His blessings is by being in fellowship regularly with His people.

God uses people to accomplish His work, so as you structure your life and your schedule, let this truth direct your priorities: God reveals His blessings through community.

-Pastor Phillip

God chose you to belong to His people

Scripture Notes on 1 Peter 2

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

You were created for belonging. In the very beginning, God declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) and He meant it.

Yet, sin separates us not just from God, but also from one another. Sin drives us deeper into the cave of lonely individualism, and tells us we can be just fine on our own. Sin tells us we don’t need anyone else, that we alone have what it takes to live a full and meaningful life and have no need of other people.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

God is a relational God, and He created us as relational people. Although sin separates, in Christ, God desires to bring together a people who have fellowship not only with Him, but also with each other.

Don’t believe the lie that you can experience full life with just you and Jesus. Jesus wants you to be a part of His body, His family, His people the church. This is God’s will for you, not just to believe, but to belong.

You don’t have to be alone, so be blessed as you take action on this truth.

God chose you to belong to His people.

-Pastor Phillip

How to Know the Will of God With Ease

Do you ever struggle with “knowing the will of God?”

“[We pray] that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will (in all spiritual wisdom and understanding) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, (fully pleasing to Him), bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” -Colossians 1:9b-10 (from the Amplified Bible, emphasis added)

Ask any Christian if they want to know “the will of God” for their lives and almost all will say yes.

Well, good news: here it is, the will of God, plain and simple.

What pleases God?  When His people “bear fruit” (produce tangible results) in “every good work,” AND when they “increase in the knowledge of God.”

That’s it.

What should you do in your work?  Take what you know and apply it to doing good to all around you as often as you can.

What should you do in your relationships?  Have a heart to see every interchange with another person as an opportunity to learn more about God and do more good for others.

What is a good use of your personal time?  Things that help you grow in your knowledge of God’s nature and goodness, and that help you share that goodness with as many people as possible.

Think about this: that time when you did something kind for a person who really didn’t deserve it, you were doing the will of God!  That conversation where you chose to really listen to what the person had to say because you understood they are made in God’s image?  You were doing the will of God!  That time when you woke up a little earlier to read the Bible and pray for just a little bit?  You were doing the will of God!

Finally, don’t forget that “every good work” also includes being good to someone many “good Christians” don’t thing about: yourself.  You were created to bring glory to God, not just through serving others, but by enjoying the world and the life He prepared for you!

When you spend time finding things that fill your spirit with joy and turn your heart towards Christ;  when you take advantage of opportunities to really enjoy the little things in life, you are doing the will of God.